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June 13, 2009 / Mike Su

Welcome to the Hotel Quarantine

Well, this blog was supposed to be about product management stuff on the web. Looks like the first few posts will be about something else entirely. As with almost everything in life, truth is far far stranger than fiction.

Startup2Startup Beijing

The end of this dinner is going to be AWESOME!

So last night, as I was feasting on an awesome dinner as part of the Startup 2 Startup dinner in Beijing, as Dave McClure was talking about erogenous zones and other NSFW topics as part of his “Startup Viagra: How to Give a VC a Hard-On” (like I said, truth is often way better/stranger than fiction), I get a tap on the shoulder to have a chat outside. Ominous, for sure, but I walk out just assuming either there’s some mix up or there’s some message for me at the front desk.  Well, I’m halfway down the escalator and there’s Sean from the Westin waiting for me at the bottom with a look like he just had this for dinner:

Sean, why the long face?

Sean, why the long face?

I get to the bottom, and he lets me know that apparently the person seated in 44A on my flight over from LA has tested positive for H1N1 swine flu, and that I’m being quarantined, since I sat in 43A. At this point, I feel like I’m on an episode of Punk’d, except (a) I’m not famous and (b) we’re in Beijing. While it was definitely touch and go for a few minutes there as to whether I’d defecate in my pants, I fared much better than Justin Timberlake did on Punk’d. Nevertheless, I’m asking Sean 1001 questions as if he were the head of the World Health Organization. After peppering poor Sean with all my questions, I go directly upstairs to pack my stuff up.

Let me back up for a second (insert footage of all the events running in reverse double speed).

The reason I’m here in China is to be a part of the Geeks on a Plane tour. GoaP is a tour organized by The Founders Fund, Christine Lu and Web2Asia as a trip for tech investors and entrepreneurs to tour the East Asian tech industry and gain first hand insights on the local tech scene. The trip has been awesome so far, and I will likely blog in some more detail about that later. So anyway, I skipped the Tokyo leg of the trip, and decided to fly straight from LA to Beijing to meet the team there.

Someone here has swine flu

Someone here has swine flu

Tuesday I arrive at the airport and beg and charm my way into an exit row seat…of course, as luck would have it, the guy next to me is twice my size which kind of cancels out the benefits of having an exit row seat, and as it also turns out, the person behind me has swine flu, which kinda cancels out a whole host of other awesome things. So how did they find out that the person sitting behind me had swine flu? Well, each time an airplane lands, a crew dressed up in outbreak gear gets on the plane. They point a laser at everyone’s forehead to scan their temperature, and if anyone has a high temperature, they take them out back and shoot them have them tested for swine flu.  If they turn out positive, then they are immediately quarantined, and the people three rows in front, and three rows behind are also sought out for quarantine (that makes me the lucky winner!).

Hmm..I hope I dont have swine flu

Hmm..I hope I dont have swine flu

So, back to the present, or what was the present (Friday night), and I’ve got my bags all packed up, and I’m sitting on the bed in my hotel room, staring out at the Beijing skyline.  I felt like Ed Norton in the 25th Hour, waiting for the po-po to come and get me and bring me in (I know, melodramatic, but for a white collar dude that spends 99% of his working hours in front of a computer, this is hopefully as close to the slammer as I’ll ever get).

So the swine flu crew finally arrives, and they come in and take a couple swabs of whatever it is they use to test for swine flu from the back of my throat. I’m escorted out of the hotel, and my limo ambulance arrives to take me away.  Sean, from the Westin, is super helpful, and they help me get my bags loaded onto the ambulance:

So I get to the Yanxiang hotel, which apparently used to be a normal hotel, but has been co-opted to become Quarantine central. It’s weird and creepy, cause I get there at 11pm, and only a few lights are on in the hotel and it looks like it’s barely operational. Everyone is wearing masks, and I feel like I’m on one of those old islands they used to send the lepers. I’ve traded in this sprawling view of Beijing:

For this one:

And this room:

For this one:

Meanwhile, as I’m sitting here in my room blogging, the rest of the crew is getting a tour from the tallest building in Shanghai, and then partying with Danny Boyle (director of Slumdog Millionaire) at the Shanghai Film Festival after party. On the bright side, at least I’m just here by myself – I see some families here with their young ones and I can’t imagine subjecting those poor kids to the confinement in a bedroom.

Next up, will post about Life in the Big House

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Catching up? Here are other posts:
7 People You’ll Meet in Hotel Quarantine
3 Down, 2 To Go



Leave a Comment
  1. Jim Connelly / Jun 13 2009 12:32 pm


    Rest assured that we’re all totally freaking up about this back at work. To the point where we might even actually do some of the tasks you left for us instead of blowing them off as was the original plan.

  2. Tim / Jun 13 2009 1:32 pm

    Wow Mike. Sorry to hear this. I hope you have a Kindle or something. At the very least I hear they get CNN, so you can watch Anderson Cooper or Larry King.

    But I look forward to Part II, where you escape using a dumbwaiter, don some knocked- out worker’s clothes and walk out of the “hotel” like nothing’s happening. Keep cool. America will welcome you back.

  3. Nancy Argent / Jun 13 2009 7:01 pm

    So sorry to hear about this! Pretty crazy story. Keep up the blogging. We will keep our fingers crossed that you are back in the Westin very soon!

  4. Vincent / Jun 19 2009 3:09 am

    Hi, aproductguy:

    I was at the same hotel from 6/8 ~ 6/14 in 1408. Isn’t it interesting the name of the Q hotel “YanXiang 燕翔” actually means “Swallow Soars Freely”.

  5. Erika / Jun 25 2009 7:41 am

    Couple of questions since I am coming to China. Is there internet at the quarantine hotel?

    • aproductguy / Jun 26 2009 10:36 am

      Yes – that is the only thing that kept me sane!!

  6. Amy Fasnacht / Jun 25 2009 4:02 pm

    I just got back from the Yanxiang aka leper colony today. I tried
    to read your blog from the hotel but it was of course blocked. My
    experience was almost identical to yours. Thanks for sharing. I
    think they’re all a bunch of Communists! :-}

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