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Introducing Cha-am

At weekends and on public holidays, Cha-am is a beach getaway for working-class families and Bangkok students. Neon-painted buses (called ‘chor ching cha’) deliver young holidaymakers, firmly in party mode, fuelled by thumping techno music. It is a 100% Thai-style beach party with eating and drinking marathons held around umbrella-shaded beach chairs and tables. Entertainment is provided by the banana boats that zip back and forth eventually making a final jack-knife turn that throws the passengers into the sea. Applause and giggles usually follow from the beachside audience.

Cha-am sees only a few foreigners, usually older Europeans who winter here instead of more expensive Hua Hin. And the beach sees even fewer bathing suits since most Thais frolic in the ocean fully clothed. This isn’t the spot to meet a lot of young travellers or even a good option for families of young children who might be overwhelmed by paparazzi-like Thais in holiday mode. But for everyone else, Cha-am’s beach is wide and sandy, the grey-blue water is clean and calm, the people-watching is superb and the prices are some of the most affordable anywhere on the coast.