85% of Myanmar’s population practices Buddhism, but there are substantial numbers of Christians, Hindus, Muslims and animists throughout the country. It is therefore not unusual to see pagodas, churches, mosques and temples standing together in a single neighborhood. Spirit worship also exists side-by-side with Buddhism, as these minor gods are believed to be disciples of the Buddha’s teachings.
In a long-standing religious tradition, Myanmar’s Buddhist families celebrate their sons’ novice initiation into the Buddhist Order, and their daughters are fêted with equally lavish ear-piercing ceremonies. Visitors can observe novice initiations at monasteries throughout the country. One of the most famous monasteries for spotting novice monks is the Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery by Inle Lake in Shan State.