I was the biggest cliché in Cameron Highlands that time. From the moment I spotted a big dark crimson rose that sat in a green throne of leaves in that petal paradise, I whispered the rhyme Roses are red, violets are blue like my entire life depended on it. Before I knew it, over an hour had passed and I realized I had stayed longer than I should. Ah, such is the power of flowers over me.
At the risk of sounding stereotypical, I have always had an unshakeable fascination with and weakness for flowers. (I even won a flower arrangement contest when I was 10 back in the country.) Flowers are just one of those things that are impossible to dislike, much less hate. Even the most brutish of the brutes surely have a place in his heart, no matter how small, for cute little flowers; they’re just too chicken to admit it. And if you’re me, then you’ll find your heart made up of petals and sepals and pollens. But it was not the love for these pollinating things per se that made me stay so long at the Rose Center (Rose Centre). I was searching for something I had never seen in my life — a blue rose.
Roses I have seen in many a hue, but not a single one that is blue. See? Now I’m making up my own awful rhyme just thinking about this place. And this hunt for the blue rose was what kept me scouring around the site the whole time. I’m pretty sure I would find a blue rose (at a flower shop or a mall) in the Philippines, but I never really took the time to look for one. I just figured since I was already at a place called Rose Center, it was probably the right time to fulfill a long disregarded wish.
The Rose Centre Kea Farm, simply known in the region as Rose Centre, has become one of the more popular tourist spots in Cameron Highlands; thanks to its inclusion to many “leisure tours” arranged by various tour operators based in Brinchang and Tanah Rata. Established in 1989, the place was originally a vegetable farm but later blossomed into a vibrant garden. It is located around 5km from Brinchang.
Even before we made it past the gate, our tour guide picked up a pair of blue red-orange flowers from the ground.
“We call them ‘Ladies’ Shoes,” he said. At first we couldn’t see why but it became obvious as soon as he arranged them on the floor. He then got another pair, this time blue, and laid them side by side. “Blue butterfly,” he revealed.
But I was not there for blue faux-butterflies. I was there for blue roses.
I was disappointed upon seeing the forepart of the center, which was filled with hundreds of roses but none of them were blue. I thought that was it, but as I hopped from one aisle to another, I was introduced to more and more rows. A staircase led to another level of terraces that also had tomatoes and cacti, and another staircase ushered me to an even higher level where the Shoe House was on, surrounded by more flowering plants. I thought that was the end of it, but behind it was a sunflower-fringed concrete walkway that snaked around more plants and trees. It was only when I laid eyes on the giant signage at the top of the hill that I realized that the place was enormous. Rose Center is made up of 10 levels of terraces, spanning an entire face of a slope of that hill. If I were a bee (and I probably was in my past life), this would probably be close to my idea of heaven!
In many parts of the site stand a number of colorful statues and carvings. There was no cohesive theme that binds these structures together. Western and eastern architectural elements collide and mess with each other here. In one corner are images of the Chinese zodiac, in another is a statue of three playful monkeys. On one side is a fountain topped with concrete angels, and in another, Confucius (or, if that’s not him, then a Chinese guy who looks like him). They have nothing to do with the flowers surrounding them but they add more color to the already kaleidoscopic environment.
At Rose Center, I saw sunflowers, daisies, hydrangeas, heathers, mums, violets, zinias, azaleas, birds of paradise, jasmines, stargazers, and roses among others — red, pink, peach, orange, white, yellow, but not blue, not even one. But that’s not to say that I didn’t have a great time. In the course of finding a blue rose, I had quite a blooming time getting introduced to more flowers of various colors. The blue rose had to wait.
But not for long.
On the way to the next destination, we stopped at the Market Square, and there I found amidst a sea of other flowers is a bouquet of blue roses being sold on the sidewalk.
And for a moment there, I felt — without an ounce of doubt — pure and genuine happiness. I’m just shallow like that sometimes.
Rose Centre Kea Farm, Cameron Highlands
Entrance Fee: RM5 (Adults), RM3 (Kids)
How to get there: From Kuala Lumpur, take a bus to Cameron Highlands. There are many tour operators in Tana Ratah or Brinchang that arrange trips to the Rose Center as part of a bigger half-day or full-day tour. You can also take a cab.