Bengaluru to Thrissur: KSRTC Garuda King Class

July had just begun. We (I and TW) were planning to travel to Coastal Karnataka during the mid of July - but certain issues like the monsoon nagged me. A few days later, I received a notification on my mail inviting me to attend a continuing education program conducted by the Kerala State Pharmacy Council. Continuing education is an important component in professions like mine, I was committed to attend this one. The program was over the weekend, and I had to confirm availability of tickets before I committed to attend. Like every time, I headed to the Kerala RTC website and searched for tickets in my favorite service - the Ernakulam Volvo. For some reason, they were charging higher fares for this service, and I decided to give the Kottayam service a try instead. The Kottayam Volvo was rescheduled a few months ago, to leave as the last AC service from Bengaluru.

July 13, 2018:
It was a little busy day for me. TW was celebrating her birthday, and we got a little delayed due to the celebrations. We started from home around 1930hrs - for a bus departing from Basaveshwara bus station (Peenya) at 2015hrs - we had to finish our dinner as well. First stop was at the neighborhood darshini where we had some yummy Kali Dose with coconut chutney. As I stuffed down the Dose, I hooked up to the UBER app to get us a vehicle to reach the bus station. I got a car by 1950, who dropped us at the bus station by 2005hrs - plenty of time still to go for our bus. The bus was already parked at Platform7! (No pun intended)

Kottayam Depot's RS788 was doing the honours that day. I had last traveled in the same bus when it was hardly days old (read here) - more than 4 years ago. At the wheels was a veteran - the conductor seemed to be a guy I don't know. The driver helped in leaving our bags inside the boot, we got in the bus and settled. The crew called up another passenger who had to board at this place - we started soon after all reserved passengers had boarded. We left from Basaveshwara bus station (Peenya) at 2011hrs, 4 minutes early. The crew took a route what some bloggers call a "shortcut" - but actually sees much higher traffic and is unfit for big buses. The bus went through Peenya police station, joined the ring road at SBI Circle and then entered Outer Ring road near Kanteerava studio - in the process passing through no less than 4 highly crowded traffic signals, whereas the main road via Goreguntepalya sees only 1 high density signal! Beliefs are tough to be broken!
The bus, after dropping us at Thrissur

There wasn't much traffic on the Outer Ring Road, fortunately, and we progressed quite soon enough towards the Satellite bus station on Mysore road. Since the bus was fully reserved, they called up all the reserved passengers boarding at the satellite bus station, and requested them to come to the parking ground - which would help the bus avoid the traffic jam at the departures area. We got to satellite bus station by 2051hrs - the crew went out to bring the passengers to the bus, while we went to use the restrooms. Some passengers hadn't reached the bus station yet, and the crew were behind them already. We finally started from the bus station at 2125hrs - about 10 minutes late.

The bus didn't have an entertainment system - and there was no way to pass time! Traffic on the market flyover was on the lower side, and so was corporation circle - this helped us reach Shantinagar soon enough (2156hrs). The bus station was crowded - as usual - and it took us time to find all the passengers. We got moving from there by 2159hrs. Traffic was fine till we reached Christ College (2210hrs) - we then crawled to St. John's hospital (2222hrs). Boarding was slow - very slow. Quite a few passengers were to come yet - we had a longish wait here. We finally got moving by 2233hrs. There was terribly traffic here-on. We literally crawled bumper to bumper through Madiwala market. The driver took the service road after Silk Board flyover - thus escaping some of the traffic. We passed Bommanahalli by 2309hrs.

We had more traffic after Bommanhalli, and finally got to Electronic city by 2323hrs - we were close to an hour and half behind the scheduled pick-up time - but passengers were still missing! The crew got busy calling up passengers, and we finally got moving after pick-up by 2329hrs. The bus started over three hours ago, and we were still to leave the "city". I dozed off a while after we left Electronic city. The guy at the wheels picked pace quite fast, and meant business once on the highway. I woke up just as the bus pulled in for dinner break at Hotel Saravana Bhavan, at Kurubarappalle, near Krishnagiri (0025hrs). We got off the bus for a stroll and to use the rest room. I love the Coconut Bun, that is sold at the bakery there - this is quite different from the dilpasand that is available in Bengaluru.

The bus started off from there by 0047hrs. I slept again after we started - a long sleep this time. Slept through till the bus pulled into Palakkad bus station (0550hrs). The crew turned on all the lights at this point. The had stopped at the refueling station - so there surely would be a longish break. We got off the bus, headed to the restroom, and then strolled around for a while. We started off from Palakkad at 0603hrs, after taking in 290 Litres of fuel. The initial progress after Palakkad was swift - it was raining quite heavily, but the driver maintained fairly good pace. Things were all fine till we passed Vadakkencherry. Traffic came to a standstill as we neared the Kuthiran pass. We literally crawled through this section - the recent rains had damaged the road and vehicles were crawling at snail's pace - worsening things there. To add to the misery, there were these recklessly driven private stage carriage buses, who did quite a bit of off-roading, rash maneuvers and cut across like an F1 driver.
At Palakkad, during refueling..

Roads were in terrible state at many places, and we had to crawl at times. The bus reached Mannuthy around 0802hrs - almost two hours since we left Palakkad. The bus finally dropped us near Sakthan Nagar Municipal Bus station at 0815hrs - about an hour and 25 minutes schedule. If not for the traffic block at Kuthiran pass, we should've made it atleast 30 minutes earlier at Thrissur.

Remarks: The bus, KL-15-A-286 (RS788) of Kottayam depot, had clocked about 8.41 Lakh kilometres, and the maintenance was very average. There were quite a bit of rattles. The crew were a mixed bag - the driver was little over spoken, while the conductor (actually a driver-cum-conductor) was very friendly with passengers. The overall driving style (of both the crew members) was good - no honking at night, and mostly very stable speeds. Blankets were neatly folded and placed on all seats, while water bottles were available on request (self service, obviously). The overall service was good - not the level set by the crew of Ernakulam depot, though. 

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

Ratings:
Maintenance: 3/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 4.5/5
Punctuality: 4/5

Overall: 4.5/5

Pros: Value for money, excellent service, state bus
Cons: Can be expensive during weekends, inconsistent service

Will I take this service again? Will be surely an option. First preference to Ernakulam, second to this one.

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