Thrissur to Bengaluru in KSRTC Ambaari Sleeper

It is very rarely that I go on a travel without a return ticket. I did that with confidence since I was traveling on a weekday, that too on a Wednesday. 

March 01, 2017:
I was done with my work by around 0930hrs, and then went in for a fairly heavy breakfast. I had some more work at my hometown, and hence returning to Bengaluru before evening was out of question. I decided to take a Sleeper bus this time, and checked the usual options on RedBus. All of a sudden, I thought to try the KSRTC Ambari Sleeper. I wanted to check the bus once before I booked the ticket. I walked down to their parking in Thrissur to check the bus, and found a fairly new bus there. I booked a ticket at KSRTC's own reservation counter at Thrissur bus station, saving some money that I'd have paid as transaction charges otherwise.
The KSRTC reservation counter located in a corner of the bus station..
I checked out of my hotel sometime past 1900hrs. My bus was to depart at 2015hrs only. I headed to restaurant nearby for a quick dinner. I went to the bus station a little past 1945hrs. Thrissur is perhaps the most busiest KSRTC bus station in Kerala, and among the smallest as well. The bus station gets terribly crowded as peak hours begin. I was in the midst of busy peak hour traffic and the bus station was choc-a-block already. The bus station has very limited parking bays, and almost half of them get converted to overnight parking stands as night sets in. My bus was brought in at around 1951hrs, and the driver parked it a little away since no platforms were vacant. 
This was my bus
They parked it near the KSRTC reservation counter, instead of a platform. Soon later, I received a message containing details of my bus. A little after the message was received, the conductor arrived with the boarding chart and boarding started. The engine was left running, so was the airconditioner - I was too tired and badly wanted to rest, and boarded soon. The driver kept moving the bus around till he got access to a platform. There weren't too many passengers in board - there were around 16 bookings or so, in the bus with a capacity to carry 30 passengers. A little over half of these had boarded from Thrissur.

I had selected an upper berth towards the rear of the bus - located right over the rear axle. This was my first experience in an upper berth in a Corona Majestic - the stair to climb on to the berth was located at the wrong place and getting on to the berth felt a little difficult. The berth was sufficiently wide for my large frame, and the headroom was quite good. It didn't feel claustrophobic or congested. The engine was fairly audible at my berth - but less intrusive than what it might have been on the lower berth. The AC blower was set at a high speed - it was quite windy at the berth, with air gusting out of the air vents. There was a single air vent - kept somewhere around the middle. I personally would've preferred having two vents to ensure better distribution of cooled air. 

We started from Thrissur at 2017hrs - two minutes behind schedule, but then, that would be a record for Karnataka SRTC, who are known for delayed departures as the crew keep soliciting last moment travelers. The driver was quite fast from the word go. He kept changing lanes like a lunatic once we entered the highway. Adding to the misery was frequent diversions on the highway due to 4-laning works. I rolled side-to-side as he kept zig-zagging on the highway. With high traffic, he kept down shifting very often, and the engine screamed through the darkness. To add to my distress, I had left my bag also on the berth, reducing precious leg room, ending up in causing a restless leg. The pillow that was provided was more of a piece of hard cushion than a pillow. It was rectangular in shape with hard rounded edges with tight stitched rexin cover. I struggled to get the right posture to sleep. Tiredness got the better of me, and I dozed off a while into the violent agitations that I was experiencing. I woke up just as the bus turned off the highway, and entered a parking place - it was 2120hrs, and we were at Hotel Malabar, near Mangalam palam at Vadakkenchery. The driver switched off the engine as he got off the bus - effectively forcing passengers to get off the bus. 
The rock-hard cushion given for a pillow..
Since I had already taken my dinner, I just had a short stroll around, and explored the bus a bit. I just realised that the bus had a full sized emergency exit on the right side. The emergency exit had a proper stairway that took passengers almost to ground level, and a proper door that allowed passengers to get out without much of a struggle. The bus was quite well built - entering the bus wasn't a hassle with a fairly low first step. The interiors were fairly put together and looked good. 
During the break..
The interiors..
That is the emergency exit, located between the berths.
After wandering around aimlessly, I returned to my berth. I hunted for a place to leave my backpack safely, and realised that the best place would be beneath the lower berth. I kept the valuables with me on the berth, and left the backpack there. KSRTC stopped giving water bottles recently - although I do not drink a lot of water when traveling by bus, I feel reassured when I have that small bottle of water at my seat. I didn't want to keep my personal bottle at my berth for the fear of leaving it behind when alighting. The lack of reassurance disturbed me a bit. We started off from the hotel at 2145hrs. The driver turned saner after the break - we were on a 4 lane road as well, now. 

I tried to sleep now - but that break, and the stroll woke me up. I tuned on to some movie on my phone as a gap filler till I fell asleep again. Meanwhile, we turned off the highway again and entered Palakkad town. We reached Palakkad bus station by around 2214hrs. More passengers joined us here. All reserved passengers were now on-board. We left Palakkad by 2224hrs. I drifted between sleep and awakeness soon after we were back on the highway. We were back on a two-laned road soon after we entered Tamil Nadu. We turned towards the city instead of taking the bypass. Although the bus went to Gandhipuram, we did not stop near the bus station (2325hrs). Instead, the bus stopped at Hopes College bus stop (2334hrs) - and managed to get a couple of passengers. I was half asleep by now, and vaguely remember seeing the bus join the highway again at Neelambur. 

A nice, continuous sleep later, I wake up hearing heavy honking. I struggle with my groggy eyes to understand where we were - I scramble for my spectacles. I notice a BMTC bus standing next to us - I assumed we were near Chandapura now going by the location. As we moved forward, I understood it wasn't Chandapura, but Singasandra! We were already past Electronic City, where I prefer getting off. I quickly loaded the Uber app, and tried to check if cabs were running again. I found that they were operating, and quickly booked one with a pick-up at Silk Board. I got off the berth as we passed Bommanahalli - collected my belongings, cross checked if I had left anything behind, and moved to the cabin. By now, the conductor starting calling out passengers wishing to alight at Silk Board junction. The bus rolled into silk board junction at 0546hrs, about 2 hours behind schedule, going by the advertised timing. 

Summary: The bus, KA-40-F-1208 of Bengaluru Central Division, Depot-2, had clocked a little over 1.5 lakh kms. Corona, a homegrown brand, is the only company to offer fully built sleeper buses in India. The sleeper bus is called "Majestik", and features a monocoque suspension with independent air suspension. They use aggregates from a range of suppliers. The engine is sourced from Cummins. The bus quality was good. I'd rate the sleep quality as average - due to two reasons: One, rash driving at the beginning; two, the rock hard cushion that was provided instead of a pillow. I had a very sore neck after using the cushion, A white bedsheet and a blanket was provided. Air circulation felt a little inadequate, since only one air vent was provided. The reading lamp was very helpful. Individual curtains isolated passengers from light when the cabin lights were turned on. Crew behaviour was good - they treated passengers with respect. Although driving in the first hour was terrible, the ride after that was excellent and very sleep friendly. The traveling time was on the higher side - 9h29m for a little over 470kms! That included a 25 minute dinner break - even then 9 hours is high. 

Amenities:
Blanket: Yes
Water: No
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, Worked.
Entertainment: Not available

Ratings:
Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 4.85/5 (Overall, good driving)
Crew behaviour: 5/5 (Overall - good behaviour)
Punctuality: 4/5 (Departed 'On-time', arrived 2 hours behind schedule)

Overall: 4.5/5

Pros: State bus, Driving
Cons: Longer traveling time

Will I take this service again? Its a good option if you prefer a sleeper bus. Definitely recommended.

Comments

Sumesh Nair said…
Good review Binai. As a silent follower of your blog, i must have pretty much read 80% of your reviews. I travel to Thrissur from Bangalore every two weeks and your reviews have always helped me to choose reliable operators. While returning from Thrissur i usually choose the 9:30 pm Diamond class for its punctuality. I have never traveled in a sleeper bus in my life and would definitely like to give it a try. I'm curious to know how comfortable would Corona sleeper be for someone who is 6 feet tall weighing 90 kgs?I find both Scania and Volvo semi sleeper very comfortable except for the fact that i find it difficult to sleep in semi sleeper buses. If a sleeper bus is as good as 3 tier AC coach on a train, that would solve my sleep issues.
Binai K Sankar said…
I am 5'6" with a heavy frame - the berth was sufficient for me. You might have to try a sleeper once to see if its comfortable - unlike the train, there is more horizontal movement in a bus, and some people might not be able to adjust to that.

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