Quickie to Thrissur: by the Garuda King Class Volvo B9R

All of a sudden rises a demand to go to Kerala, to Thrissur. The need popped up suddenly, and the journey was right in the middle of the week. I had plenty of options - all of them had lots of vacant seats and all of them had heavy discounted fares. I had to be in Thrissur very early in the morning, effectively ruling out the buses that leave Bangalore late in the night. I narrowed down my choices to early evening departures, and without much confusions, I zeroed in on Kerala SRTC's Garuda King Class to Trivandrum, that leaves Bengaluru at 5pm. I decided to book the ticket over the counter, and did the same the day prior to my journey.

February 28, 2017:
The strike by drivers of App based cabs was at its peak. No cabs were operating, and traveling to my office was a bit of a hassle. Given my experience in the morning, I did not want to risk missing my bus in the evening. My colleague was also traveling to Kerala the same day. We both left from office towards the evening. I did try searching for cabs, but there were none. We decided to take the bus - the BMTC app did not throw up any direct connection to Mysore road satellite bus station, and we had to change buses enroute. Interestingly, the conductor of the first bus claimed they'd go to satellite bus station - although the bus did not go inside the bus station, it did drop us within walking distance of the bus station.
My bus being brought to the departure area..
After a light snack and a coffee, I got set for my long journey to Thrissur. The bus that would take me there was getting ready for the ride. Kerala State RTC's RS781, KL-15-A-279, of Thiruvananthapuram depot would be my ride. In command was Mr Jerish, a person whom I knew really well. I was quite excited to see him at the wheels, and looked forward for a great ride ahead. The bus was brought to the platform (#6) a little past 1610hrs - well in advance for a 1700hrs departure. Boarding commenced past 1630hrs - only after the reservation chart was prepared. Being a working day, we had very light loads - around 12 passengers in the 49 seater bus. The crew were successful in getting about 3 walk-in passengers as well. Once all the reserved passengers were on board, the conductor signalled the driver to start. We started off at 1646hrs - 14 minutes before time.

Recent traffic changes at the bus station meant, the bus had to exit using the exit towards Mysore, travel all the way to Deepanjali nagar depot, then turn around and travel in the opposite direction towards the city. It was past 1700hrs by the time we crossed the bus station. Water bottles were kept at all seats, while blankets were kept on the overhead baggage rack. A movie was played soon after the bus started from the bus station. Interestingly, the conductor remained inside the passenger cabin, and not on the co-driver seat. Traffic was comparatively on the lighter side, and we managed to get to Shantinagar bus station by 1726hrs. Majority of the reserved passengers joined here. We started from here by 1729hrs. Lighter traffic helped us get to St. Johns, Madiwala by 1749hrs - two passengers joined here. Once past Madiwala, traffic lightened, and we took the Electronic City Flyover (Elevated Highway) to get to Electronic City. We picked up another passenger at Electronic City toll gate (1813hrs) and continued the journey.

Traffic was even lighter after we passed Electronic city - quite unusual for the time of the day. Barring the slow moving traffic around traffic signals, we had a largely free run. We got to Attibele toll gate by 1828hrs - which, also, was free flowing. Traffic came to a standstill once past the RTO check-post at Zuzuwadi. There was some police checking, which blocked the entire road. Despite the traffic, we managed to pass Hosur (bus station) by 1844hrs. It was getting dark, and traffic on the highway was slowly building up. As it got dark, I spent my time watching the movie - a fairly recent flick. We pulled into Hotel Saravana Bhavan Classic, at Kurubarappalli a little before Krishnagiri toll gate, at 1917hrs. I felt this was a little early for a dinner break - they could probably shift the stop to the next Saravana Bhavan, located near Dharmapuri.
During dinner break..
I rushed into the hotel and had a very quick dinner. I returned to the bus, and decided to click a few pictures of my bus. In the meantime, a Karnataka SRTC Airavat Club Class, headed to Chennai, had also joined us at the hotel for a break. We left the hotel after break by 1941hrs. As the first movie got over, I hoped to sleep for a while, and readied my seat. The conductor had other plans - the second movie started! I slept on and off for a while. We passed Salem bypass by 2137hrs. The driver maintained steady pace on the highway. The engine sounded relaxed and hardly any sound came into the cabin as the bus settled on the highway. The driver was soft as he changed lanes - used horn only when needed and did not brake very hard. We had a brief halt a little past Kumarapalayam toll gate at 2228hrs - a leak break. I had a nice sleep after this break - by now, the movie finished as well.

I vague remember seeing the bus passing Coimbatore town - there were some passengers bound to Coimbatore in the bus. I slept for most of the part. I woke up hearing commotion of people walking through the aisle - we were stationary at Palakkad bus station. A lot of passengers had boarded here - I believe there were a few reserved passengers as well. The bus started from Palakkad at 0103hrs. I slept even before the bus entered the highway from the town. Another round of nice sleep, and I woke up just as the bus took a turn at East Fort, Thrissur. We pulled into Thrissur bus station at 0222hrs - 09 hours and 36 minutes after we started from Satellite bus station, covering a distance of 485.7kms (based on the odometer readings, I had recorded).

Closing remarks: The bus had over 6.45 lakh kilometres on the odo as we started from Bengaluru. The exterior appearance was quite good, but the overall maintenance didn't seem great. There was a continuous rattle from the rear suspension, while the engine sounded calm and relaxed. The interiors were clean and spotless. I personally hate the rexine seat covers, and the seat felt very hard. The driver put up a good show with a bus locked at 80kmph - we left Electronic city at 1813hrs, and still got to Thrissur by 0222hrs - that is 8 hours and 09 minutes, including a 20 minute dinner break, about 3 minutes at Kumarapalayam toll gate, and about 5 minutes at Palakkad, where the bus was refueled as well. That is a great running time, considering the speed lock and the time of journey. The conductor was a mixed bag - although he had placed water bottles in all seat backs, blankets weren't distributed. He preferred sitting inside the passenger cabin and watching the movie, instead of accompanying the driver during the night drive, which would've been ideal considering safety of passengers. A mixed bag this time, again.

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: Yes
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, Worked.
Entertainment: Available - Movies played.

Ratings:
Maintenance: 4.5/5 (rattles from rear suspension)
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5 (Great driving)
Crew behaviour: 4.95/5 (Overall - good behaviour)
Punctuality: 4.5/5 (Departed Early, arrived 52 minutes behind schedule)

Overall: 4.75/5

Pros: State bus, Cheap, Driving
Cons: Nothing

Will I take this service again? Its a good option, but the timings aren't suitable for my general purpose. This was an exception. Recommended for people okay with odd arrival times.

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