To Kottayam on SLS..

A classmates wedding in Kottayam - the invite came a good 1.5 months early. I hadn't reserved any ticket, and was undecided till the last moment. I was confused between private and Government buses. Karnataka SRTC was on the shortlist for sometime - but the prospect of having to travel in a bus operated by crew who hardly bother about time did bother me. I have often seen the KaSRTC Kottayam bus taking 11-12 hours to reach Thrissur itself - I wanted to reach Kottayam before 8 so that I have enough time to get fresh. The next shortlist was Kerala SRTC's two Super Deluxes - one via Gudalur and the other via Salem. I kept these on waitlist since I was a bit confused on taking a non-AC bus since it was a long day ahead. Next on the list was Kerala Lines - but I was told that the bus wasn't running that day. I had tried Shama a few months ago - did not want a re-run of that day, and the bus stops for Dinner - I, for some reason, prefer a non-stop service. Next was SLS - I have never tried this one. Reviews were mixed - so SLS it was.

February 11, 2014:
It was around 1700hrs. I was at home and hadn't still booked a ticket. A quick look on a third-party website confirmed that SLS was the cheapest option - some offers were thrown in too. The only catch was that the offer was available only on tickets booked using their android app. That was not a block anyways. The ticket was booked using their official app - and the final ticket fare was Rs. 900! Cheaper than the KaSRTC option! My brother dropped me at Angel Travels (the agent who handles SLS from Bangalore) at around 2015hrs. The bus was at 2045hrs. I remained outside the office until the bus came. The adjoining Kallada office was busy - buses came and departed every 10~15 minutes. The clock ticked past 2045 - there was no sign of the bus. The bus finally came in at 2055hrs.
The bus. Photo from archives.
Boarding started immediately. Not many people were there initially - I got in an headed straight to my seat, a window on the right side as usual. Slowly more and more people boarded. Ticket checking started around 2105hrs. The first impression about the bus - well maintained! The interiors were exactly like an Airavat Club Class - only the curtains were different. Interior finishing, upholstery were all the same. We had around 30 passengers on board as we started off from Madiwala, at 2117hrs - 32 minutes late. The driver was very light on the pedal - he was not pushing the bus at all. He maintained average pace for most of the time. We took the BETL and rushed towards Hosur. We stopped at Bommasandra for a pick-up (2143hrs). Some 3 passengers got in, and we started off at 2147hrs.

A Malayalam movie was played. I had watched the movie earlier, multiple times. So decided to push back and sleep for some time. The bus stopped at Hosur (2208hrs) for an unknown reason. Then the bus took the route via Rayakkottai. I dozed off somewhere on the route. When I woke up, the movie had finished and was replaying again! Somebody was seen rushing to the cabin - the movie was switched off now. I slept off again - undisturbed. There was no honking, no hard braking. I vaguely remembering seeing Chavadi check-post (around 0230?). I slept off again. Vaguely remember the attendant calling out for Thrissur passengers - did not notice the time then. I had another nice sleep. I woke up as the bus stopped at Aluva (0525hrs). I watched the progress of Kochi Metro with awe - works were in full swing even at that hour. The highway was barricaded - and warning lamps were put on through out.

We stopped at Edappally bypass for a drop (0538hrs) and then proceeded towards Vyttila. I was expecting the bus to turn left at Vyttila and proceed towards Pettah. But we passed the signal and stopped outside the temple at Vyttila (0546hrs). The bus almost emptied out, and the crew went for a tea break. We started again at 0557hrs. The bus took a left at Maradu, and headed straight to Tripunithura. It was a narrow road, but it cut a lot of distance. After Tripunithura, the driver picked up some speed. I dozed off for some more time. When I woke up, the bus was parked on the roadside - couldn't decipher where we were, or what we were doing. Nobody got off the bus, nor was parcels unloaded. I saw the driver walking around the bus - and shortly after I saw this, we started moving again. The bus finally reached Kottayam Baker junction at 0731hrs - I headed to the cabin and confirmed my drop outside KSRTC stand - he driver confirmed. I took my bag and returned to the cabin. I was finally dropped outside the KSRTC bus station at 0733hrs - 10h16m for some 580-odd kms. As I walked towards a nearby hotel, I saw the KeSRTC Super Deluxe via Salem arriving at the bus station.

End notes: The bus was KA-01-AC-8640. It had about 80K kms on the odo. Maintenance was top notch - no rattles, no squeaks and no irritating noises. I loved the ride throughout - the bus was fast, but not rash. He did not cut hard anywhere, nor did he have to brake hard anywhere. The running time seemed proportionate to the distance Not much to write about - the service was no-nonsense.

Blankets: Yes
Water: No
Charger points: Available (Did not use)
Entertainment: Available (Movie played)

Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew Behaviour: 4.5/5 (minus 0.5 for letting that movie play again)
Punctuality: 4.85/5

Overall: 4.85/5

Will I take the service again? Surely, if I travel again on that route