Myanmar, also known as Burma, was long considered a pariah state while under the rule of an oppressive military junta from 1962 to 2011.
The generals who ran the country suppressed almost all dissent - symbolised by the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi - and stood accused of gross human rights abuses, prompting international condemnation and sanctions.
A gradual liberalisation process has been under way since 2010. The country is expected to see a major shift after the government changed hands early in 2016.
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. For many years Myanmar disappeared behind a wall of self-isolation, and only recently reopened its doors to the outside world, revealing the country’s unique culture and stunning scenery
to new generations of visitors.