A similar scene unfolded in Xishuangbanna prefecture, also in Yunnan province, famous for its temples and hot climate.
Crowds of visitors filed into the crowded night market as pop songs blared from bars along the Lancang River, as the upper reaches of the Mekong are known in China.
Women in heavy make-up and dresses inspired by traditional clothing stood by the water’s edge while a hired photographer took pictures.
A “No Vacancy” sign was posted at a hotel in the main tourist district, and diners waited an hour for a table at a popular restaurant.
Traffic jams are common before New Year’s Eve.
Transport officials are predicting more than two billion journeys over the 40 days between January and February – almost double last year’s figure and 70 per cent of last year’s level. pre-pandemic.
Many fear cases will escalate as millions return home, with China’s President Xi Jinping saying on Wednesday he was “worried” about the virus situation in rural areas.
But many locals who spoke to AFP in Yunnan dismissed fears of an outbreak – and much of the infrastructure that supported the zero-Covid policy is gone.