Lonely Planet says:
Cheap and cheerful Cha-am has long been a popular beach getaway for working-class families and Bangkok students. On weekends and public holidays, neon-painted buses (called ‘chor ching cha’), their sound systems pumping, deliver groups of holidaymakers. It is 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. Applause and giggles usually follow from the beachside audience.
Cha-am doesn't see many foreigners; visitors are usually older Europeans who winter here instead of more expensive Hua Hin. And there are even fewer bathing suits on display as 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 long, wide and sandy, the grey-blue water is clean and calm, the seafood is superb, the people-watching entertaining and the prices are some of the most affordable anywhere on the coast.
Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thailand/upper-southern-gulf/cha-am#ixzz3S2JVdopV
More photos of Cha-Am here.
Kade and I stayed overnight in Cha-am once, and I'm sure visited at least one other time. It was on the way to Hua Hin, which was always our beach town of choice. Therefore, Cha-am was never a destination we focused on. I do remember we were in a Cha-am hotel the day of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. I was watching the BBC. I also associate Cha-am with one of my favorite eating experiences. Kade and I had stopped by a 7-11 on front beach road. After buying a few things, we walked out the door, and right there was a lady making Som Tum (papaya salad), using a mortar and pestle. And in the clay mortar, when she'd start to make her next batch of Som Tum, there would be some chili remnants left behind. At the time, I was not "digging" spicy dishes! I told Kade to please ask the lady to clean the mortar very carefully to get rid of all traces of chillies before making my Som Tum, and to tell her I would give her a little tip for doing so. And so Kade did it. What I got was the best-tasting Som Tum of my life (yes, delicious, even without spice!). At her little food stall, we also bought grilled chicken and sticky rice, two items that complete this Northern Thai meal. It was all so good! And I do know that Kade and I went back at least once to this lady - pretty confident on another trip - specifically for her Som Tum. And we remembered the spot by recalling the 7-11! But I just liked the service I got, and the fact she custom-made it for me.