Coimbatore to Bangalore: asianXpress Volvo B9R

There was only one condition - we had to return to Bangalore on a day service. The only convenient option we had was the Ernakulam-Bangalore service - which seemed to be priced quite high. I quickly looked at options from Coimbatore, and found a service from asianXpress listed with an afternoon departure. They didn't seem to list this service on other days - that made me curious, and i headed to their official site to see if such a service actually existed. It did, and I booked our tickets on that one. The bus departed from Coimbatore at 1400hrs, and reached Bangalore past 2100hrs - acceptable timings.

October 02, 2018:
Coimbatore was a little over 80kms from TW's place. We had decided to take a bus from Palakkad to Coimbatore, and our travel to Palakkad was to be by car. We were dropped at Palakkad bus station a little past 1015hrs. I was on the look out for any bus that would drop us at Gandhipuram bus station - the regular Palakkad-Coimbatore shuttle buses go only until Ukkadam bus station - we'd have to take another bus from there to get to Gandhipuram. I was hopeful of getting a TNSTC bus that travels beyond Coimbatore - as I waited for one, I spotted an SETC Ultra Deluxe bus crawling in to the bus station - the bus was headed to Salem, as well!

We got into the bus, and they got moving by 1048hrs - the bus, TN01AN1041 (C336) of Salem depot, slowly crawled out of the bus station, towards Palakkad fort. The bus continued crawling for a while, and turned towards Manappullikavu, and then joined the highway, thereby avoiding the mess around Chandranagar. The driver picked pace once we were on the highway. The conductor went around issuing tickets (Rs. 70 per head, to Coimbatore). Soon after he finished issuing the tickets, he returned to his seat, and dozed off. The driver maintained steady pace through the ride - he stopped briefly near Ettimadai to drop a passenger and continued. There were quite a bit of diversions after Madukkarai, and we got to Ukkadam by 1217hrs (an hour and 29 minutes after we departed from Palakkad). We got into traffic after Ukkadam, and finally reached the Central Bus station, Coimbatore by 1233hrs. We headed straight to Shree Gowrishankar hotel on Cross Cut road for a sumptuous lunch. We headed to Omni bus stand after lunch.

We were at the Omni bus station by around 1340hrs. Our bus to Bangalore was already parked there, but they hadn't commenced boarding yet. Boarding commenced a little before 1350hrs - the bus was still parked outside the bus station. An agent from their handling agent in Coimbatore handled the boarding - he was whining that they had a lot of pick-ups on the way. We got moving from Omni bus station by 1403hrs - took a U turn and stopped on the other side of the road to pick-up a few more passengers. We had to wait for quite a while - later, proceeding to Gandhipuram (1411hrs) - a few more pick-ups, and we got moving by 1414hrs. The bus had stops all through the city, at Lakshmi mills, Peelamedu and finally at airport (1435hrs).
The bus: KA-09-D-6162, before departing from Coimbatore.

The AV system was turned on soon after the bus entered the highway. A welcome message was played, followed by the Volvo safety video, and then some messages related to booking for asianXpress buses. This was followed by a movie. The bus was making quick progress, in the meantime. We stopped on Avinashi bypass (1508hrs) for picking up a few passengers. I was enjoying the ride - the driver was very smooth, maintained very good pace, used the horn only when required and did very good overtakes. We had another stop at Bhavani (1556hrs). It began raining a little past Bhavani, and continued almost till we reached Salem. We got to Salem by 1652hrs - the pickup here took a while, and we got moving only by 1657hrs. The bus got full only here - had around 60% until then.

It slowly got darker as we made swift progress towards Bengaluru - the sky was overcast, hastening the onset of darkness. The driver was letting the beast loose - all the 340 horses, in tandem, ensured we progressed quickly. It did rain on and off through the journey. I was getting hungry as we progressed towards Bengaluru - and desperately looked forward for some food. We pulled into Hotel Mangalam, past Krishnagiri, at 1901hrs - all I remember was rushing off the bus to the rest rooms, and then to the restaurant. Mangalam is the preferred hotel for quite a lot of operators - and the hotel serves some really good food. We treated ourselves to Kuzhi Paniyaram (awesome), Mushroom Masala Dosa (Outstanding), Boli or Holige (Average), and downed them with coffee. The bus got moving from there again by 1931hrs - they turned off the movie after the break, since they were facing some issues with the sound system.

I dozed off for a while after the break. The bus stopped briefly at Hosur to drop a passenger (2011hrs). I slept for some more time, and woke up just as we were leaving Attibele toll gate (2022hrs). The bus had drops all the way after that - Bommasandra (2037hrs), Electronic City toll gate (2041hrs), Silk Board (2051hrs), before we got to Madiwala (2055hrs). I quickly checked with the crew if they'd drop us at Kalasipalya - they replied in affirmative. We left Madiwala at 2058hrs. More than 30 passengers still remained in the bus - a few got off at Lalbagh (2112hrs), few more at Town Hall (2119hrs) - and, finally about 15 of us got off at Kalasipalya, at 2124hrs - about 24 minutes behind schedule.

Remarks: The bus, KA-09-D-6162, a June 2016 model Volvo B9R iShift coach had clocked about 6.3 Lakh kilometres. The bus was in pristine shape - very well maintained, and interiors in great shape! The ride was absolutely comfortable - there were no rattles, and the driving style was awesome. I do not recollect any hard braking, minimal honking and stable driving. The crew were very helpful - the attendant helped us with leaving our baggage in the baggage hold, and later retrieving it, as well. It would've been great if they had given a very brief break before Salem as well - a washroom break, to phrase it correctly. The first break was close to 5 hours into the run - being a day service, quite a lot of families were traveling, and a break would've been great for the ladies. Overall, it was a great journey!

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

Ratings:
Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 4.85/5 (Acceptable delay)

Overall: 4.99/5

Pros: Value for money, excellent service
Cons: Nothing really!

Will I take this service again? Absolutely yes!

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