Cheap and cheerful, Cha-am (ชะอำ) is a popular beach getaway for working-class families and Bangkok students. On weekends and public holidays, neon-painted buses (called ‘chìng·chàp tua’), their sound systems pumping, deliver groups of holidaymakers. It's a very 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.
Cha-am doesn't see many foreigners; visitors are usually older Europeans who winter here instead of more expensive Hua Hin. Like Hua Hin, the shallow sea is better for strolling and sunbathing than swimming, but unlike its southern neighbour, there isn't much else to do here beyond the beach. That said, the seafood is superb, the weekend people-watching entertaining and the prices are some of the most affordable anywhere on the coast.