I set a goal to meet him and planned it during a short solo cycling trip from Kuantan to Kota Bharu. That was my first meeting with Pak Chik Hassan, and also his wife. Such gracious host they had been. Their hospitality spiced with the keropok lekor Pagar Besi the couple served me had left an indelible mark on me. The greater impact personally was what Pak Chik Hassan had been doing for the last 15 years - setting up of Al-Manar to teach the village children English, Science and Mathematics, single-handedly. Visit his site at http://www.almanar-nuri.blogspot.com/ for some soul-searching.
We had been in touch since then. Last year, my wife and I visited them on one of our regular flights home to Kota Bharu. This time around, I e-mailed Pak Chik of my intention to pass through Al-Manar with 5 other cyclists on our way to Besut. Pak Chik invited us to spend the night in his house instead. It was an invitation hard to refuse. I had missed that opportunity once.
So, 6 BJCC cyclists arrived at the gate of Pak Chik Hassan's house to experience his bachelor's hospitality. Pak Chik had been a bachelor for almost 3 weeks since the good wife went to KL to visit the grandchildren.
Two fully furnished rooms were ready for us. After some exchange of pleasantries, we headed to the rooms to shower to ready ourselves for dinner. Earlier, as we cycled along the beach to his house, we saw a few crowded warongs and the smell of grilled fish was floating along the stretch of the road. I believed we already had a consensus where dinner would be.
However, the warongs we saw earlier timed their business in tangent with the sunset. But Pak Chik Hassan already had a restaurant in mind and we were not disappointed. We were spoilt for choice. Zaba quickly got one Ikan Merah grilled. We took Nasi Kukus and the arrays of dishes. Sadly, I could only managed to scrape the bottom of the gulai kambing. In between five of us, we had a few additional helpings of nasi kukus and extra dishes, in the pretext of carbo-loading!
Fendi, down with fever, opted to rest at the house. We "tapaued" food for him.
We retreated back to the comfort of the air-conditioned rooms, satisfied with our Day 1 ride and gratified with the experience and the opportunity to visit Al-Manar.