Beary, one of the more energetic tourism professionals in Chiang
Mai has had one of the more interesting ex-pat lives. With his
Royal Navy Commander father who used to advertise Senior Service
cigarettes, and his mother a fashion model, the progeny have to
be interesting individuals. Shane Beary, the middle child of
six, is certainly that.
He was born in Dublin, Ireland, but when he
was two years old, the family migrated to South Africa. His
initial schooling was there, but he was then sent to the UK
boarding school when he was 10 years old.
Boarding school was to be his life for the
next five years, but when he turned 15, his life changed. His
family had moved to what was then Rhodesia, and he returned,
ostensibly to join them. It was then he, in Shane’s own words,
He worked on farms in the African bush, but
soon joined the Rhodesian military, after forging his father’s
signature on the consent form. By this stage, young Shane Beary
showed he was single-minded in purpose, and prepared to accept a
certain element of risk!
And risk became second nature to him while in
the Rhodesian military. Joining first in the infantry, he became
a skilled bush tracker and then was inducted into the SAS,
becoming a founder member of the Selous Scouts, a special
clandestine unit. “I did enjoy myself as a soldier but after
eight years I basically had had enough.” He was about to move
into the next stage of his life, but no longer needed to forge
However, this time he was to have a new
environment. Underwater! He had taken an underwater course
attached to the South African Navy courtesy of the SAS and in
1975 the North Sea oil boom was about to take off. The oil
companies needed divers, especially “saturation” divers who
could work at great depths. “There were only some 200 guys
capable of doing this work at that time. Initially they paid USD
3,000 per day!” said Shane. That was enough incentive, and
Shane Beary, ex SAS became a saturation diver.
Shane worked as a diver in the North Sea for
eight years, but unfortunately the halcyon days of USD 3,000 did
not last. “By the late ‘70’s it was down to USD 500 a
day,” said Shane ruefully.
So he moved to warmer waters to work for a
French company in Sarawak, but this was not satisfying for the
adventurer, and from there to oil rigs offshore from India.
“The fun, and the challenge, or the money, just wasn’t
there,” said Shane.
It was time to take stock of his situation,
so he decided to go to Bangkok to work out just what he was
going to do. “I ended up just having another beer! It was a
After that year, Shane came to the North.
“I felt the area was similar to the Africa I loved, so I
decided to do something for myself. In a combination of
arrogance and ignorance I built a teakwood lodge on the Kok
River. I was the architect, building foreman and owner.” This
he ran for the next four years, but being an adventurous kind of
guy, he also founded an adventure tour company which he called
‘The Track of the Tiger’.
In case you have the idea by now that Shane
is some sort of gung-ho Chiang Mai answer to Paul Hogan’s
Crocodile Dundee, put that idea away immediately. Shane Beary is
anything but a simple croc hunter. For example, he was able to
look critically at his teakwood lodge and see beyond the fact
that he had built it, to be able to understand that it was
really too small and on the wrong side of the river. He took in
a partner and redeveloped another property on the other side.
They came up with a concept to increase occupancy rates during
the low seasons - a dedicated environmental studies and outdoor
training center for international students. This worked, with
more than 1,000 international students coming last year.
“That’s 6,000 room nights,” said Shane, with obviously
Like all businessmen, Shane found that he
needed an accountant. This is the person who can show you where
you are going. Shane perhaps needed some more direction, as he
married his! Wife Sriphan and now two children (Seamus and
Conor) make up the family.
It was time for more decision making. Leaving
partners Bryan and Rosie Massingham to operate the resort, they
decided to come into Chiang Mai for the children’s education.
He also decided it was time to diversify.
This he has done spectacularly. He has come
up with very different restaurant idea called Just Khao Soy,
which is in the throes of being franchised overseas. He is
publishing a guide called ‘Chiang Mai Shopping Secrets - 101
reasons to spend another day’. He has formed an alliance with
a major tour operator and is about to expand his Team Building
and Event Management services throughout S.E. Asia. Another
project is to establish an ‘after school hours’ education
center, combining English language and outdoor education, in
I asked Shane if the adventurer was still
there. After all, he has done freefall parachuting, has held the
world record for the number of days spent under pressure
(saturation diving) in one year (278 for the curious), was once
the youngest regular army sergeant in the Rhodesia military, and
has been all over the world. “It’s still there,” said
Shane, “but it’s channeled into the business.”
He has also found a side of himself that he
did not know he had. “Previously I was doing nothing creative.
I have found that I have a great love for Thai and old colonial
architecture.” This shows us all that you are never to old to
learn (even about yourself).
Shane Beary may be a surveyor of schemes and purveyor of
dreams, but above all, is a lover of life.