Thrissur to Bengaluru: YBM Travels

I have always wanted to try new operators as they come up. YBM Travels is not exactly a new operator - but an operator who has consistently broken into monopoly routes and captured the top position in their routes. YBM Travels recently entered the Bengalore-Kerala route, with services on the Bengaluru-Ernakulam route. Private operators are quite expensive on the Bengaluru-Kerala route on weekends, and I had to wait for a weekday to try this operator. Holiday travels to home are planned quite in advance - I usually prefer travel around middle of a month, but March was to be different. A particular holiday on our holiday calendar caught my eye - it was on a Monday, and I could probably try YBM. I make a reservation through the redbus website to bag a small discount. The travel plan went for a toss, and ended up having to reschedule my journey. This ticket was "reschedulable" according to redbus - I had to pay a reschedule fee and the difference in fare. My total spend on the ticket now was the pre-discount fare on the ticket. My seat changed - I moved from a single lower berth to a single upper berth - never mind!

March 10, 2020:
A heavy heart, moist eyes - I walked out of my home not turning back, not even to lock the gate as I walked by. I walked fast towards the bus stop - I got a bus soon later as well. I managed to squeeze into the sole empty seat in the bus - as I engaged myself on the phone. It was hot and humid - I was still sweating out as if I was standing below a shower. The bus sped through fairly empty roads towards Thrissur - I got off outside the KSRTC bus station in Thrissur at around 2110hrs - with about 30 minutes to spare for my bus. After roaming around the KSRTC bus station for some time, and downing a hot cup of black tea, I returned to the pick-up point of my bus. There was no office or any on-site staff at the boarding point. I received a call from the crew about 10 minutes before the bus arrived, to check if I was at the boarding point already.

I was expecting a BharatBenz sleeper coach, going by the tracking information I could gather in the days before the journey. I had received tracking information on the day of my journey as well - but for some reason, the number never made me think the bus could've changed. The bus turned up a little past 2145hrs - people rushed to board the bus soon later. I did not move assuming it isn't my bus - I realised it was my bus only as I checked the number again! My booking was verified on a tablet computer the crew carried - I received a welcome message as soon as I boarded the bus. I headed to my upper berth in the second row of the bus. Up on my berth, there was a pillow, a headphone, a bottle of water and a packed blanket.
The bus at the Pick-up point in Thrissur. Boarding in progress.

We started off at 2155hrs - the driving was good right from the beginning. The attendant came around to turn on the LED screens and also made sure it was working before he went to the next berth. A Tamil movie was being played on the system - the movie had almost finished. I watched the last few minutes of the movie - the display quality was good, but the sound system kept going off time and again. Meanwhile, we reached Mannuthy - picked a passenger and continued our run towards Bengaluru (2209hrs). I was getting sleepy - the blanket was unpacked and I slowly started drifting asleep. I somehow held on to see how was the road at Kuthiran. Road widening was progressing at brisk pace here - a new bridge was being built next to the old Irumbupalam as well.
The pillow, headset, water bottle and packed blanket

The individual entertainment screen. Scooped wall to liberate more leg room.

I dozed off after we passed Kuthiran. A little past Kuthiran, the bus pulled over to a small tea shop for a break (2245hrs). This place had restrooms, and a snack and tea shop. All YBM buses were stopping here - YBM has two services on the Ernakulam-Chennai route as well. This was a very useful stop - we started off from here at 2301hrs. I dozed off soon later - only to wake up a little later seeing the bus running reverse! It seemed we missed the exit towards Chandranagar, and the bus had to back up till the exit and then headed towards Chandranagar. We got to Chandranagar, i.e., Palakkad bypass bus stop, at 2337hrs. More passengers joined in - we started off by 2339hrs. I believe a few seats were still vacant.
The bus during tea break

A pair of YBM Sleepers during tea break!

I slept like a log after this stop. I don't recollect any stop or breaks on the way. I don't recollect sleeping so well in the recent time - great driving, I must say. I woke up just as the bus was nearing Electronic city. No body alighted at Electronic City - the bus passed the toll gate at 0551hrs and entered BETL. I was expecting some traffic around Silk Board - but nothing of that kind was seen, and we rolled in to Silk Board by 0558hrs. I had decided to get off here - and had booked a cab to travel towards the nearest metro station. The bus waited for a while at Silk board while the crew checked if anybody who wanted to get off here had slept off - I liked that attitude. The bus took about 8hours and 3 minutes for this journey, including a 16 minute break.

Remarks: The bus, PY-05-H-7863, was fairly new. It was built on an Ashok Leyland ALPSV 4/251 chassis by Veera Vahana. The bus was in mint shape - she was a little over 4 months old. The interiors were in great shape - there was a back rest as well. I really liked the interiors, and the service by crew was flawless. I liked the service on the whole. Their fares are too volatile, though. The fares go over the roof if there are long holidays and comes crashing down in the last minute. Not a great thing for passengers who book in advance. I did not like one thing - the blankets were packed in plastic bags. This could've been avoided and replaced with paper bags if they want to provide packed blankets. We are already battling plastic overload - hope major operators do their part by minimising this avoidable plastic usage. 

Blanket: Yes
Pillow: Yes
Water: Yes
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available, Worked!
Entertainment: Available - individual LED screens and headphones

Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: 5/5 (arrived about 10 minutes late)

Overall: 5/5

Pros: Awesome ride, great crew, Value for money.
Cons: Volatile fares can really burn a hole in your pocket. 

Will I take this service again? Absolutely!