Thrissur to Bangalore: Garuda King Class!

The upcoming pooja holidays - three days off together. What more do I need to book a ticket to go home? Flights were ruled out since they were too expensive. Buses were expensive as well. I remembered that Kerala RTC opens reservations as early as 45 days in advance quite late - I casually checked the Kerala RTC website and found that most buses were already full! I did not have much time to waste - I made a reservation on the Ernakulam-Bangalore Garuda King Class - despite booking on September 9 for a journey on October 11, only seats towards the rear were available - and I selected seat #35. For some reason, the fares looked way off to me - it didn't take a lot of time to realise that KSRTC was charging end-to-end fares on all buses that day! Business sense dawns on KSRTC - began with flexi fares, now end-to-end fares during peak days! Way to go KSRTC!

October 11, 2016:
I left my home quite early - I had some shopping to do. I waited for some time to see if I could get a KSRTC bus - but none turned up. I finally took a private bus, that was flown not driven by a crazy F1 wannabe, who threw the bus through curves and narrow roads - I was really relieved and happy as I got off the bus near the KSRTC bus station at Thrissur - sometime around 2040hrs. I had about 15 minutes to go for the scheduled pick-up time. I had received an SMS with the details of the bus that would be taking me to Bangalore while I was waiting for a bus at my hometown itself - and I had been using this information to track the whereabouts of the bus using the KSRTC Bus Tracking website. The website showed that I had a lot of time to have my dinner.
Tracking information..
The bus station was packed to its gills - buses and passengers jostled for space. There were no less than 5 buses lined up for Bangalore - all of them were full, and seat seekers crowded around the crew. It was getting stuffy and hot in the bus terminal - and I had to walk towards the entry gate to get in some fresh air. The tracking website updated that the bus had reached Thrissur bus station by around 2125hrs - the bus wasn't inside the bus station yet, but had probably entered the geo-fence. The entrance was jammed - the buses that were inside weren't able to find a platform to park and they crowded around the circulating area. I remained near the entrance itself. My bus, RS787, entered the bus station at 2130hrs - but no platforms were free. Boarding did not commence till the crew found a vacant platform. They finally found an empty platform at 2139hrs. Boarding commenced immediately - it looked like no less than 50% of the bus was filling from Thrissur!

Some passengers were missing and the crew were busy hunting for them. We got all the reserved passengers by 2153hrs and started off from Thrissur - we were almost an hour late now. My seat was fairly comfortable - the seat cushion felt a little harder than usual. The engine sounded a little abnormal - a constant whistling sound, which worsened as the retarders kicked in. There were no squeals or squeaks otherwise. A malayalam movie was played on TV. The driver was quite efficient - he made some quick calculated overtakes as we entered the highway. The Mannuthy-Vadakkenchery stretch of the highway is under construction, and hence there are a lot of diversion. The conductor came around distributing blankets and water bottles soon after we entered the highway. Lights were turned off, and only the the night lamps remained on.

I was quite sleepy and hence prepared to sleep. I was quite surprised when the bus pulled in for dinner at Hotel Malabari, just past Mangalam palam, Vadakkenchery, at 2251hrs. Isn't this a little too late for dinner? I feel the bus should be stopping for dinner around Ankamaly or so. I had taken by dinner from Thrissur and just kept strolling around. I had a juice from there in the meantime. This hotel is a regular break point for a lot of Karnataka RTC buses as well. We started from there by 2324hrs. I slept off soon after the bus started, and wokeup only as the bus turned off the highway to go to Palakkad bus station. We reached the bus station at 2351hrs. The remaining seats were filled here, and we started off exactly at the stroke of midnight (0000hrs) with 49 passengers on board. I vaguely remember passing the toll gate at Attappallam - slept deep after that. I vaguely remember the bus stopped on the road side for some time - probably a tea break for the crew.
The bus, RS787, after dropping me at Electronic City
I woke up again as the bus stopped at Attibele toll gate - it was around 0620 or so, then. The toll gate was quite crowded - but our driver had selected the best lane. We had some drops near Narayana Hrudayalaya and Hebbagodi. I was constantly checking for cabs around Silk board - but the availability was quite poor. I got a quick idea as the bus neared Electronic city - I checked for cabs near the toll gate, and found they were easily available. I decided in the nick of time to get off at Electronic city itself - I got off there by around 0643hrs. This was perhaps the best decision - I could make it home by 0700hrs easily - which wouldn't have been possible if I continued to silk board.

Remarks: The bus, RS787 (KL-15-A-285) of Kottayam, had clocked about 4.86 Lakh kms. Although the bus was originally homed at Kottayam depot, the bus was being operated by Ernakulam depot that day. The mechanical maintenance was great - but the exteriors bore a lot of damages, and the interiors weren't in great condition. The floor mats were torn. The seats were clean - but the cushion felt a bit hard. I am not a fan of these faux-leather rexin seat covers - they are too hot and uncomfortable. Driving was great - the bus was stable at 80kmph for most of the time. The bus has a single driver, who is at the wheels for over 13 hours - which is terribly unsafe. I hope the driver-cum-conductor system is enforced sooner. (The system has been approved by the KSRTC management). The end-to-end travel time was 8h50m, including a 33 minute dinner break, Palakkad town entry and pickup, and atleast one tea break en route. Overall a great service.

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: Yes
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, Did not check if it worked.
Entertainment: Available - one movie played.

Ratings:
Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 4.5/5

Overall: 4.95/5

Pros: Reliable, Punctual, Economic
Cons: Odd break times

Will I take this service again? Absolutely. They are a great option - economic, reliable.

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