For weeks before travelling to China, I’d been obsessed with finding a dodgy fake Gibson Les Paul. Call it quirky or whatever, but put me in a foreign city and after the obligatory culture trip, I’m Googling for vinyl records and guitar stores.
Straight off the bat, I saw only 3 fake Les Pauls (or ‘copy guitar’ as the locals say). They were priced at around 1700 Yuan and played OK but were definitely nothing special. But let’s be honest. It’s 2012 and don’t believe all the bullshit they say about fake guitars on the internet. The government are cracking down on fakes. You can’t even take a photo of a can of beans in a supermarket if it has an English brand on it. Staff can and will stop you in the nicer parts of town from photographing stock.
Virtually every shop has massive selection of Epiphone guitars, ranging from about 1800 to 4500 Yuan. This is approximately $200-$500 Aussie dollars. Most stores have the same stuff, Zakk Wylde Les Pauls and virtually all the Epiphone range made in China. And oh yes, one store has a range of genuine Gibsons that would make Slash blush. At no so cheap prices that match those in Australia and a bit more. Premium stuff seems over priced in China just to make it that bit more exclusive for the mega rich. The same mega rich that bugger off to Hong Kong to buy the real deal cheaper.
Frankly I wouldn’t bother with rip offs when the local Epiphones are pretty good. There are a few really interesting local brands that are rip offs of ESP guitars and some bizarre, very cool local designs. One shop even had a BC Rich Eagle that looked pretty real until I went upstairs and it looked like they were making guitars (or at least assembling them on site from bits, possibly forgeries).
There are some local effects pedals, e.g. Moen that are made and designed in China. They are pretty funky looking things. I bought a Jimi Hendrix chorus vibe pedal. They were asking 520 Yuan and I got them down to 400 – about $60 Aussie dollars. Not bad for a Chorusy/Vibrato pedal. Line 6 and MXR pedals are virtually everywhere.
Get on the subway and head to Xinjiekou subway station (actually Ping’anli is a bit closer). This is on line 4 of the central Beijing Subway. There are about 20 guitar stores scattered amongst this shopping strip. If you ask any locals for guitar shops, they will send you here. It’s definitely worth the trip too!
The subway costs about 2 Yuan (about 30 Australian cents) for a one way trip. Frankly I wouldn’t bother with a taxi in this town as they tend to stitch up foreigners and it’s a fairly straightforward trip. About 20 minutes from Tiannamen Square.
Hey this is China. If they say no, do the walk out, tell them to eat a bit bag of shit, whatever. They will drop the price. It’s all part of the pantomime and fun of buying in Beijing. Maybe bring a Chinese mate. Prices tend to be firm, but they will throw in cases and other goodies.
Anyway, I’m sure I’ve just scratched the surface. Perhaps somewhere there really are gleaming Les Paul fakes for a penny. If you do know where they are, well hook a brother up!